Thursday, November 17, 2005

Don't Expect Politicians to Reverse Connecticut's Decision to Slow Down the Cleanup of Long Island Sound

Connecticut doesn't have enough money to continue the cleanup of Long Island Sound, but Sound advocates shouldn't expect state legislators to do anything about it on their own. In fact the elected officials who raided the state's Clean Water Fund for non-environmental purposes admit they don't really have the will to fund environmental programs on their own.

The admission came yesterday at a forum in Greenwich held by Audubon Connecticut. Much of the forum, according to the coverage in the Greenwich Time, concerned the Broadwater LNG proposal. But the reporter wrote:

... legislators also answered questions about the need to better fund the state Department of Environmental Protection. Officials there have said that budget cuts make it hard for them to proactively address environmental issues in addition to their mandated role of reviewing and issuing permits, such as for hunting or industrial uses.

Legislators said they would push for more funding, but they needed the lobbying support of environmentalists and their coalitions.

"That department has been emasculated for years," Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149th District said. "But you know, the pie is only so big. What we need are coalitions."

I wasn't there and perhaps someone who was can let me know if my assumption is correct: But I think the reference there is to Connecticut DEP's nitrogen reduction program, which is in trouble (see here and here), at least for the short term, because there's no money in the Clean Water Fund. And even if it's not a direct reference, the implication is clear: start hounding your representatives and senators to make the Sound a priority again.

The Sound's most important issue is not Broadwater, it's the long-term impairment of prime estuarine habitat by low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water in summer. The amount of attention the issue has gotten, including the specific issue of Connecticut's decision to cut back on its nitrogen reduction program, is a sad indication of how a healthy Sound has become much less of a priority.

There hasn't been any media coverage, as far as I can tell, and there doesn't seem to be much general discussion of it among Long Island Sound advocates.

Have any state Legislators (including Terry Backer, the Soundkeeper) explained why Clean Water Fund money was used for other things?

Does the DEP think that easing up on nitrogen reductions is an acceptable strategy for one year but that the agency plans to rev back up in subsequent years?

If anyone has answers or insights, send them to me, please.


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